Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mark Twain House

If you should ever find yourself in Hartford, Connecticut whether by design or by accident you ought to make a point of visiting Mark Twain House as I did today with my roomie. (

I must feign ignorance at this juncture. Until this weekend I had always associated Mark Twain as a creature of Hannibal, Missouri. But now A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court kind of makes sense.

So it was that Mark Twain made Hartford his home from 1874 to 1891. At the time, it was the wealthiest city in the United States and was the heart of this country's nascent publishing industry. During those years spent in Hartford, Twain wrote such books as The Prince & The Pauper, Tom Sawyer and, of course, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Twain and his family left Hartford after he was forced into bankruptcy. He had the misfortune of investing his fortune in a typesetter that did not work. Twain, who was born Samuel Clemens, eventually paid off his debts and returned to Connecticut late in his life and it is where he died in 1910.

Mark Twain House opened its door in 1974 on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Up until the 1960s, his house had been utilized as apartments. In recent years, Mark Twain House has struggled to stay afloat and has laid off most of its staff. However, it did recently receive a $500,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation. (Yes, the same organization that gave Bill Ayers and company nearly $50 million to "reform" Chicago Public Schools. I think this investment was a bit better albeit far more modest.)

Under the circumstances, bad economic times or not, Mark Twain is an important figure in American history if not the most important in American literary history. As such his contributions ought to be preserved. Otherwise rumors concerning the death of Mark Twain House would not have been greatly exaggerated.

It is worth noting that tomorrow is the 173rd anniversary of Twain's birth.

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